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BY GEORGE HODGES
And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. Luke 17 : 15.
men went straight on. Out of the ten only one turned back to say, " I thank you." The ten had been deserted of all men. They had been forbidden to live any longer in the society of their friends. They had been commanded to cry " Unclean ! unclean ! " when they saw anybody coming their way ; warning the passer-by, that he might take the other side of the road. They were under the ban. Both the priest and the doctor were against them. That is, the two persons to whom the sick and distressed turn naturally for comfort, they whose whole existence is for the purpose of ministering to their neighbors in disease and pain, had shut their doors against such folk as these. There they were in the streets, forlorn and friendless. And thus forsaken of all men, thrust out by all men, these ten had consorted together, and had associated 192
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themselves into a society of common sorrow, a fraternity of desolation ten outcasts, ten beggars, ten lepers. Then one day, the ten beheld across a field one of whom they had heard that He was the friend of those who had no friends, the friend of publicans, and of sinners, and even of lepers. He was the friend of lepers. He had been known once to show some kindness to a leper. Some said that it had happened more than once. He had actually put out His hand and touched a leper. This new teacher, of whom many strange things were reported, had touched a leper and healed him. It seemed incredible not that He should heal him, but that He should touch him with His hand. And then He came along the road, and the ten saw Him. The lepers saw the friend of lepers. And they joined their pitiful voices in a cry to Him that He would touch them also, and heal them : " Jesus, Master, have mercy on us ! " And He stopped, and did have mercy on them. He sent them to show themselves to the priests. And it came to pass that as they went they were cleansed. Then it was that nine of them went straight on : out of the ten only one turned back to thank the healer. The nine went on to take up their old life
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again. Step by step, along the way, as the bonds of their leprosy were loosed, a new
strength came into their arms, a new light shone in their faces, and a new hope lifted up their hearts. I cannot think that they were altogether ungrateful persons. That is not human nature. They could not have looked into the unexpected future which was thus opening before them, and into which they were going as one goes out of bondage into freedom, without a memory of Him who had made that future possible, and a deeply grateful memory. Jesus had not passed out of their thoughts. That is quite unlikely. The men were not ungrateful. They were only silent. They were grateful enough in their hearts ; they were singing and making melody in their hearts. But nobody would have known it, for no note of the songs got into their lips. This was partly because they knew not what to say. Of all emotions, joy is the most difficult to bring into speech. Sorrow seeks expression. Think of the notable scenes in which the masters of fiction have pictured the crisis of human life. The best are the pathetic and the tragic. Gratitude is especially hard to utter. It eludes the pen and the tongue. It can be seen in the eyes, but it rarely finds
O E FROM TE . . 195 adequate expression. We try in vain to say all that we feel. There is much more gratitude and appreciation in the world than we get credit for. If we should ever outgrow spoken language and for words substitute thoughts, so that conversation should be car-
ried on without words as communication is already effected without wires, and mind should speak with mind, there would be no difficulty about thanksgiving. There are few emotions that would gain more in power of expression. Everybody who is good to us will know in that day just how appreciative we are. This, however, was not the chief reason for the silence of the men who gave no thanks. They might have said something. It is not likely that the one who turned back was very eloquent : he probably stammered and stumbled in his speech. They might, at least, have fallen at the Master's feet, and thus even in silence have assured Him that their hearts were full of affection and of adoration. The trouble was not so much that they did not know what to say, as that they did not consider that they needed to say anything. They did not think that He who had blessed them cared whether they showed their gratitude or not. He did care. His instant question, " Where are the nine ? " makes that plain.
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It is true that the gratitude which He sought and missed was not for Himself. " There are not found that returned to give glory to God save this stranger." It was God to whom He would have the glory given. If, however, there were no more to it than that, it is hard to see wherein the nine failed. They went on to the priests ; that is, to the temple, where the priests performed their offices. What better place could they have chosen for the gift of their gratitude to God ! There in that hal-
lowed sanctuary, in the appointed services and with the appointed offerings, let them give God the glory. Was not that the natural and proper thing to do ? On they go along the road, obeying Christ's command ; and as they go, with every step, their leprosy is cleansed ; and there they are, well men. Then they stop and consult together, companions now in great joy as they had been companions in distress ; and one says, What shall we do ? Shall we not go back and thank Him? and another says, " o, we are doing as He told us, we are going to the priests. Let us give God the glory. Let us kneel before His altar in His house." And to this they all agree save one, and he, curiously enough is a Samaritan ; that is, he is a person who is out of accord with priests. It is notorious that the Jews have no dealings
O E FROM TE . 197 with the Samaritans. The fact that this Samaritan was of the number of these ten shows that their misery was so great that it overbalanced all their natural prejudices. ine Jews in sound health would not have tolerated the company of a Samaritan. Indeed, as they got better they may have begun to look askance at the stranger with whom in their affliction they had fraternized. Anyhow, the priest had nothing for him. The others might go on to kneel before the altar in the temple, he would go back to kneel in the dust by the side of the road, and to offer his thanksgivings in the presence of Him who had healed him. And this was what Jesus wanted. The man came, and glorfied God, but in his gift of praise to God there was a human, personal
element. He glorified God, the gospel tells us, but he fell down on his face at Jesus' feet, and gave Jesus thanks. And Jesus liked that. He liked the simple courtesy of it. He showed on several occasions that He set a high value on good manners. It made a difference to Him whether or not He was treated with the consideration which is rightly due from host to guest. He saw in little things symbols of large realities. It pleased Him to have affection and regard expressed in gentle ways. And He liked the straightforward directness
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of it. The man was honestly grateful and he came and said so. And in that act he gave Christ pleasure. That is the fact to which the narrative bears witness, and which we ought especially to consider as we read about it on such a day as this. It is natural for us to think of the saying of prayers and the singing of praises from the point of view of our own selves. But our Lord's pleasure in this man's frank gratitude reminds us that there is another and divine side to all this. He who by precept and by example reveals to us the nature and will of the Eternal, teaches us here and elsewhere that God cares : that God has pleasure in our prayers and in our praises : that therein we render some small return to Him for all the joy with which He fills our lives. We do thank God for most of the uncommon blessings. A sudden danger, a sharp
sickness, brings us so close to the great realities that God seems nearer to us than usual. When the danger is passed, or the crisis of the disease is reached and safely turned, we think of God, and the grateful feelings of our heart find expression at our lips. But we ought to thank God also for all the daily blessings, for our health, friends, food and raiment, and all the other comforts and
O E FROM TE . 199 conveniences of life, for all the manifold mercies and loving kindnesses of Him from whom cometh every good and perfect gift. Christ taught the truth, which was long obscured, but in our day is emphasized by clearer knowledge of the world of nature, that our heavenly Father is forever present in the world and forever active in it. We call the laws of nature by appropriate Latin names, and are tempted to imagine that we understand them because we have thus named them. But so are the mountains of the moon named. So are the fixed stars named. So is radium, the latest of the mysteries, given a name. Behind them all is God. What we call natural law is but God's customary way. The Hebrews were very wise in their poetic and religious histories, wherein they ascribed all things to God's direct action. If the army lost the battle, God had turned His face against that army. If the rain descended and the wind blew, God was in the wind and in the rain. It was all profoundly true. God is in all the experiences of common life. All is of
Him, in whom our life is lived. Thus the homeliest blessings come from the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, We ought to be thankful to Him for them all ; for all the smallest joys of a good year ; for
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the divine protection ; for our prosperity ; for the fact that we are alive to-day, and able to be here in the house of God ; for our escape from a hundred ills which we feared as the weeks passed, but which did not fall upon us ; for innumerable and blessed assistances in temptation, by reason of which we are no worse than we are, thank God ; for daily joys past counting up. Praise and thanksgiving be to God who has poured His benefits upon us, in our own individual lives. Then we remember the blessings which we share with those nearest to us, in the family. Thanksgiving Day has a distinctively domestic meaning. It is the festival of the family. It cannot be satisfactorily observed in a hotel, or in most boarding houses, or by anybody who sits alone at dinner. It needs children and relatives, to fill it with the proper cheer ; or the presence of dear friends. It is the homeliest of our days of observation, homeliest in the best sense of that word, as being sacred to the home, as recalling the time when people thought that God had His dwelling in their home, with the hearth for His shrine and altar, and the fire blazing upon it in His sacred honor: and were right about it. To-day we worship the God of the household, returning
to the simple faith of those remote ancestors
O E FROM TE . 201 of ours who lived when every father was a priest and every meal a sacrament. To-day we consider with gratitude the protection of God, the good guidance of God, the love of God who is the Father of us all, revealed to us in so many ways under our own roof. Praise and thanksgiving be to Him who, during this past year has poured His benefits upon us in our homes. This is the most ancient of all our holy days. It is true that it had its specific beginning in the experiences of our ancestors here upon these shores early in the seventeenth century. But it antedates the passover : it precedes the pyramids ; it is before history, even before civilization. It had its origin in the instincts of primeval man, and was celebrated at the gate of Eden. Thanksgiving Day is the most ancient and the most universal of all our festivals. Therein our calendar agrees with the sacred year of every religion. All men everywhere in this time of harvest have met together throughout all ages, and are still meeting for the purpose which assembles us to-day, to give thanks to God for the ingathering of the fruits of the earth. For us who go back and forth about our business over paved streets the agricultural aspects of this day are in the remote background of our thoughts.
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We try to return to the sturdy joy of our grandparents, to whom the harvest was a personal experience, and it is like the difference between the symbolic sheaves with which we deck the altar and the real sheaves, acre on acre, golden in the sun, silver in the harvest moon, shining in the fields. But the harvest is essential : let us remember that. We cannot live without it. To-day we praise the Lord for the kindly fruits of the earth, for the labors of the husbandman wherein he is a fellow laborer with God, for fire and heat, for frost and cold, for the succession of the seasons, and all the divine elemental forces. O, let the earth bless the Lord : yea, let it praise Him and magnify Him forever. Finally, as good citizens, we give God thanks for all the large mercies of the year, national and international, seeing God's great working there; sometimes understanding it and sometimes not, but conscious, nevertheless, and through all, of His abiding presence, of His patient dealing with the human will. We perceive, as we review the year, that little by little, swinging back yet coming on like the rising tide, the kingdom of heaven invades the world and slowly very slowly, but surely, takes possession of it. Thank God for that, and for all the good men and women, who, in
O E FROM TE . 203 the face of difficulty and defeat, in our huge misgoverned cities, in our deserted villages, in the perplexities of our vast problems, are bringing the good causes forward, in His name.
It is His world ; that is the truth which makes thanksgiving reasonable. It is His world, made by Him, redeemed by Him, sanctified by Him, growing year by year to fill the measure of His plan. The movement of the nations is like the flight of the birds, in spring and fall voluntary, yet divinely guided. And as we behold it, as we feel the thrill of it in our own experience, we praise God: saying no longer, The Lord liveth which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt ; but the Lord liveth which brought up and which led our fathers to the shores of this new continent, and here established them a nation, and here prospered them and made them a great people ; the Lord liveth who to-day in every land, in peace and in war, is guiding the peoples of the earth. O ye children of men, bless ye the Lord. O ye servants of the Lord, bless ye the Lord. O ye holy and humble men of heart, bless ye the Lord, praise His name, come before Him with thanksgiving, magnify Him forever.
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